U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommends Screening for those at High Risk of Lung Cancer

Action will require screening coverage as an essential health benefit in 2015

Statement of the American Lung Association

Washington, D.C. (December 30, 2013)

Today the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) made a recommendation that will save lives.  The Task Force released its final recommendation, grading annual low-dose CT screening for individuals at high risk for lung cancer with a B grade.  

Under the Affordable Care Act, effective prevention measures – graded A or B- are included in the Essential Health Benefit.   Patients who meet the screening criteria will have insurance coverage for screening without co-payments or other barriers starting January 1, 2015 or the beginning of their next plan year. The USPSTF high risk populations include current and former smokers, ages 55-80 years, who have significant cumulative tobacco smoke exposure and have smoked within the last 15 years.

The American Lung Association urges all insurers to cover the screening for high risk patients immediately.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients is only 16 percent. This new screening test has the potential to dramatically improve lung cancer survival rates by finding the disease at an earlier, more treatable stage.   The USPSTF estimates that if everyone who is at high risk is screened, there will be an approximately 14 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths in the United States.

The American Lung Association applauds the USPSTF for their final recommendations on lung cancer screening.  We hope that over time, this screening will have a similar, positive impact by increasing lung cancer early detection, treatment and survival rates as have other USPSTF screening recommendations.  

In April 2012, the American Lung Association released guidelines to assist physicians and their patients in discussions about lung cancer screening. The Lung Association’s guidelines, based on the National Cancer Institute’s National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, mirror that of the USPSTF’s recommendations. The full American Lung Association Report on Lung Cancer Screening and related educational materials are available here.

The most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking, and the best thing people can do to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking or never start. The American Lung Association has helped more than one million people quit smoking through its Freedom From Smoking® program and Freedom From Smoking Lung Helpline 1-800-LUNGUSA.

The American Lung Association also provides several resources for lung cancer patients and their caregivers. Patients can determine if they are candidates for lung cancer screening through our online tool, lungcancerscreeningsaveslives.org.  Facing Lung Cancer: Support from Day One is an online tool with interactive features that address specific topics of interest for people living with lung cancer and their loved ones. The Lung Connection is an online community where individuals living with lung disease and their caregivers can discuss how lung disease affects their lives and share life experiences with peers.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.